Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, estimating that the damage caused by the heavy rains over the past few days at more than two billion dollars, says funds will have to be reallocated to deal with the infrastructural damage caused by Tropical Storm Zeta.
Holness told Parliament on Tuesday night that the funds being reallocated are not additional funding “as we have already gone through the second supplementary estimates and, therefore, there is no additional funding for the government’s response.
“This is now about each ministry, each minister, each permanent secretary, going through their budget, line item by line item, to see what it is that we can reallocate, and this will be supervised by the Ministry of Finance,” Holness told legislators.
Holness, who has already warned that the two billion dollar estimate could “rise significantly” said the preliminary estimate covers road clearance, drain cleaning, access creation and road patching but does not include the cost for permanent repairs or major rehabilitation to roads and bridges.
“These two billion dollars would only cover what would be needed, for example, to clear the gorge or roadways that have been made impassable and to undertake a clearing of drains and gullies and so forth,” Holness said, adding that there has been significant damage to parochial roads with some 80 per cent affected.
He said he was recommending that ministers “ look in your budget very carefully to see what we can do in terms of reallocation to ensure that all Jamaicans who have been dislocated and severely impacted by these heavy rains, that there is some form of outreach to them”.
The assessment has been undertaken by the National Works Agency (NWA). Prime Minister Holness told legislators that “based on the extent of the damage and cost, all the required works cannot be immediately done.
“Accordingly, the government is proposing a programme of targeted interventions with a priority ranking,” he said, adding that the aim is to immediately clear blocked roads, clean heavily silted drains, and patch main thoroughfares, respectively.
He said the cyclical mitigation programme, which usually coincides with the Christmas period and covers de-bushing and drain cleaning as well as the patching of roads across all 63 constituencies, will begin shortly, and will now lead into the Christmas period.
“So, at this time, we will budget to expend one billion dollars to directly address damage due to rains, and this is to be used directly by the NWA according to areas of greatest national need and strategic importance to the productivity of the economy,” he said.
Holness said an allocation of J$1.5 million from the Housing Fund will be made to each Member of Parliament to assist with repairs to houses of constituents damaged as a result of Zeta.
“This is the start. As we go through and we decide on reallocation we may be able to do more, but this is so that the MPs are not flat-footed in the face of requests,” he said.